Rethinking Indy’s Priorities from the Inside-Out

Indianapolis’ Department of Public Works has released the priority list for Rebuild Indy part II. The first Rebuild Indy project came under fire from many angles, including this blog. This is not to say that there were not good accomplishments that happened with the initiative, but for the most part this project was about resurfacing and maintenance of the existing status quo. Poorly designed streets had new asphalt and concrete, but still had many of the same issues: poles in the sidewalks, sidewalks that were adjacent to the streets, and large turning radii, just to name a few issues.

Building streets correctly may be more expensive now, but will pay off later with a safer population.  Even downtown, which has seen the largest chunk of this city’s re-investment, is not immune from car-centered streets and intersections.  Witness the corner of Washington and Meridian Streets, which marks the zero/zero spot for the city’s addressing system:

Photo Credit: Kevin Kastner

North bound Meridian Street has a dedicated left turn lane and light. That means pedestrians crossing Washington Street have to wait for cars for more than one light cycle. If pedestrians don’t get priority in this spot, what hope do they have in other parts of town that are less prominent? Northbound Meridian Street isn’t even too heavily trafficked on this block, according to the MPO’s vehicle count:


10,000 vehicles sounds like quite a bit, but unlike the surrounding streets, Meridian is a 2 way street, meaning that closer to 5,000 vehicles head northbound on this block per day.

Like last time, Rebuild Indy is a great chance to truly change the priorities of the city towards public safety and a multi-modal transportation network. The project list appears to be more of the same, unfortunately.

Comments 18

  • For the love of God, can we please get an E/W bike line/cycle track on the north side of town (86th/82nd or 96th St)?

  • Speaking of your previous critique of 52nd St., have you seen the pothole ridden state of it this winter?

  • Need a map like this, easy to compare downtown streets and looking at which should actually be one way commuter and which have lower counts than others-

  • Its sad that stories like this are the norm for Indianapolis, not the exception. I’ve lived here since I graduated college and 10 years later, not much has really changed and it doesn’t seem like change is coming anytime soon. As much as I would like to continue living in my home state, I have begun looking for jobs in Denver and Seattle. I know I’m not alone.

    • Seems like you might be exaggerating a bit. The Cultural Trail is a major shift, especially for city like Indy.

      • The Cultural Trail really is transformational.

        I’m near Broad Ripple, which has seen some improvements over the recent years, but it’s agonizingly slow. I don’t know if Broad Ripple is waiting to hit rock bottom before turning itself around or what. In the meantime my family has to endure multiple lanes of 40-50mph traffic on College Ave and drivers with little respect for red lights, stop signs, or anything except themselves.

        BRVA has a plan. Midtown Indy has a plan. Meridian Kessler has several plans best I can tell. Not much progress though.

        I’m perhaps not as glum as Jonas, but I’m definitely looking at plans like these and Rebuild Indy II and trying to figure out if it makes sense for my family to stay in the midtown area, move downtown, or leave the city entirely.

        • Chuck, I completely agree, and Broad Ripple is particularly bad. For a place that has been a popular area with many well-paid individuals, BR has terrible infrastructure for both pedestrians and cars. The drainage doesn’t work and is literally caving in, the roads can barely be called roads anymore, bike lanes barely exist, sidewalks off of BR Ave are spotty and breaking up, etc. I really wish BR could be its own city/town with its own budget and its own priorities, but instead we have to compete with the rest of gigantic Marion county in money and priority. But like I said below, I’m choosing to get involved to try to make a difference before I completely give up on things.

        • Chuck, I’m at about the same point as you. I currently live near downtown (Fletcher Place) and it is really hard to see things like Repave… er, Rebuild Indy spend massive amounts of money on things that, for all intents and purposes, don’t serve my needs.

          My wife and I talk on a pretty regular basis about where we want to go next. She is from Toronto, so we talk about there. By comparison though, the cost of housing in Toronto is about 1000% more. Yes, three zeros after the one.

          That being said, our mayor’s neighborhood liaison spoke at our neighborhood association meeting last night and there is just a major disconnect between what is happening (aka what people say they want) and what needs to happen (aka what people actually want). For example, the MNL said, regarding the repaving downtown, “These are your streets. You can appreciate what a difference a nicely paved street makes.” That sounds nice but the reality is that my nicely paved street is for the benefit of suburban commuters. My use of the streets for my car is minimal compared to the 30 mile round trip commutes for those in Fishers, Carmel and Greenwood. And intersections like shown above, just magnify the weird perversion of “what people want” in this city.

          • Couldn’t agree more. Beyond a certain minimal threshold, the quality of street pavement has a very low correlation to my quality of life.

            Indeed it probably has a negative correlation, as nicer pavement results in faster motorists paying less attention.

    • I feel the exact same way, and I’ve also thought about leaving for another city that isn’t waiting to let good things happen to it. However, for now, I’m deciding to make a difference by getting involved with the BRVA. I’m volunteering my time to document and report issues to the DPW on behalf of the BRVA, and I’ll hopefully be meeting with people from DPW on a regular basis to review the most pressing issues in Broad Ripple. I’d love some help with this!

      • Thank you Jim! Your efforts are appreciated. I’ve trying to get involved with some groups, but haven’t figured out BRVA yet other than attending a few of the meetings. I don’t live in Broad Ripple proper, I’m in Meridian Kessler, but Broad Ripple is our spiritual hometown, so to speak. I’d be happy to help, how do you suggest I get involved?

        • You’re welcome to join me in documenting infrastructure issues around BR if you want. I’m aiming to photograph and submit every thing I can from potholes to dangerous intersections for pedestrians and regularly report and meet with DPW.

  • Bad News: Lots of resurfacing – 2″ asphalt overlays that will need to be redone again in 3-5 years, like most of the RBI1 projects.

    Good News: Several greenways – Eagle Creek, Pogue’s Run, Pennsy Trail, and, surprisingly Fall Creek Trail from Meridian to Indiana Avenue, which will complete this trail from downtown to Ft. Ben that has been on the books for over 10 years.

    Also several bike lanes (I wonder if they will be buffered as promoted in the city’s recent Green Lane Project with People For Bikes), including a northside east west route connecting along 56th/54th to the Monon. Not sure why many of these bike lanes are classified under “parks” rather than “transportation” though.

    Overall, the heavy emphasis on road resurfacing is to be expected given the managers at DPW. The most disappointing aspect is, we have not learned the lessons of RBI1 of failing to capitalize on the rare opportunity presented by the windfall of funding to rethink our streets and incorporate green infrastructure and complete street practices that support community revitalization, livability, and long term sustainability – and do so much more than simply allow cars to move from A to B as fast as possible.

    • So we have a complete streets ordinance now, which was not the case during RBI1. Supposedly it is one of the more strongly written complete streets ordinances in the country. Is there any hope that this will prompt actual change in the way RBI2 is implemented?

      Encouraging to see that greenway expansion would be a part of this. Is RBI2 even a sure thing yet? I thought the city council was still dragging it’s feet.

  • Block motor traffic from entering/leaving Meridian St north of this intersection. That would make the whole Circle more pedestrian friendly. Easy to do.

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